Updates from September, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Binder Planning Model 


    I’m stepping into a new role this year and I’ve already found myself getting pulled into the Binder Planning Model. You know the one, where the entire year is laid out in the binder, and you’re just turning the pages.

    To me, it’s a metaphor for school planning in general. In schools, we like to organize our thinking around binders. A sequential entry of to-dos, dates, events and directions for everything that happens throughout the year, from day 1 to day 185, in one place. A binder, sitting on a shelf, within arm’s reach at a moment’s notice. It’s a practice that has perpetuated for generations.

    One which reminds me of that old teaching adage, “Teach 25 years, not one year 25 times”. When I was new to teaching, I was handed a binder for the year and told, “here you go”. I dutifully took one look at it, realized it was mostly out of date and set about rebuilding the content from the ground up. The one thing I took from the binder was the general course outline. I put that outline into an online learning management system (Moodle at the time, I pre-date Google Classroom) and proceeded to pull in a ton of relevant content from many different sources, which I continuously updated, modified and adjusted every year.

    Just as I didn’t want to fall into the same routine in the classroom year after year, I don’t want to fall into the same administrative routines year after year now.

    Yes, new standards come along and new regulations are passed, and we dutifully update pages in the binder to keep current (we all do that, right?). But the binder format itself is limiting. It’s hard to adapt and update multiple copies with fidelity. It promotes sequential thinking and “sticking to the plan” even in the face of obvious need for adaptation. The binder models a “gate keeper” mode of information sharing that doesn’t apply in the connected world we now live and work. Granting access to multiple people requires lots of manual intervention (copy and send the green pages, replace page 20 with green 20, etc…). The content remains locked away on a shelf, unsearchable, and only referenced by a few. It’s a planning tool from the 20th (19th?) Century. We need a new planning model for the 21st Century.

    What if we threw away the binder and every year we had a conversation about what we should do, how we should do it and why we should do it. What if instead of a binder, we had a live planning document, a shared google doc accessible to the entire staff. A scrolling sea of infinite planning possibilities. What could we accomplish if every year there was a blank slate with a running history of the years before. Not a pre-set script to be repeated, but a knowledge base on which to build and transform for they year ahead?

    I think it’s time to move the annual department plan from a binder to a collaborative planning doc. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Rachel Medeiros 8:30 am on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I love these thoughts. It’s so easy to get sucked in to the binder. However, I’d also say this same mentality can easily happen with a Google Doc of lesson planning. Our Google Docs die sometimes instead of staying up to date. I wonder what would happen if we began every year with time to build lessons from scratch, thinking about our goals for each unit. We might still carry things over, but we’d probably get rid of a lot of things too. I’m excited to be doing a Fall CUE session on this. :)

      • Erica 4:34 pm on December 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        I can’t even imagine what it would be to start the year with time to build lessons from scratch – It would be so nice to have a little time to evaluate what to keep and what to get rid of.

    • Joel 4:21 pm on October 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Wow!! I absolutely love this idea!! I use Google Docs, and Google Forms in my classroom with my students. My teaching partners and myself have a google doc that we share and it is a wonderful way to collaborate and share ideas!! I was even thinking more along the lines of creating a Google folder teachers across the nation could add to for their specific grade level or subject. Think about all the amazing ideas that would be posted from people all over the globe. Love your post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    STEAM Program Goals for Students 


    I’ve been thinking a lot about programs lately (new occupational hazard I guess). After edCamp last weekend, STEAM has been front of mind. I tend to think of programs from the perspective of what do we want to see students doing. For a 1:1 program, it basically comes down to accessing information, collaborating, creating and presenting using modern tools. For a STEAM program, maybe it would look something like this:

    • Problem Solving
    • Explaining
    • Problem Finding
    • Designing
    • Creating
    • Building
    • Presenting
    • And having fun

    What do you think a STEAM program should look like for kids?

    • rebecca girard 7:31 am on September 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      This is an excellent list! One more thing I would add…student directed. Engaging STEAM programs allow students to explore what fascinates them most about a certain topic. I have experienced this every time I give students the opportunity to direct their learning. Currently, my students are working on providing a solution to the IDEO Challenge to reduce food waste. Students are developing the 4Cs as they explore, innovate, design and iterate. Their path of learning is determined by what has sparked their curiosity. It’s also a blast to teach this way since I learn throughout the process. I am always curious to see what students will create.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Data Trap 

    There was a trap we found ourselves falling into back in the STAR testing days with data. We spent the majority of our time and energy focused on the kids just below the line. The ones close to being proficient. The ones that theoretically should be easy to move. That was how we (and many others) moved district wide performance and attempted to avoid the dreaded PI (program improvement). Targeted intervention with a subset of kids. The bubble kids. For many districts it worked. But the unintended consequence was that it left lots of kids behind.

    I will never forget a principal at a school in a district I won’t name who told a group of parents that only kids that scored just below the line were eligible for their after school support programs, because there was no point in providing services to kids that were so far below the line they wouldn’t be able to move enough to count. Straight up. Seriously?

    I’m writing this in part to remind myself not to fall into the same trap. All kids deserve our very best. Not just the one’s closest to a line on a test.

  • Andrew T Schwab 8:00 am on September 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Titles, Schmitles. 

    I have a new title. It’s a mouth full and when people ask what it is, it actually takes my brain a few seconds to spin up to say it.

    Associate Superintendent, Learning & Innovation

    On more than one occasion, once I get it out, people have commented that it’s kind of cool or that it’s different. I tell them it’s totally made up and that basically I’m now responsible for Tech and EdServices. People generally get it from there but I find the initial pause interesting.

    Learning & Innovation seems to throw people for a loop. As opposed to a more traditional title with Educational Services or Curriculum & Instruction in there, both of which carry a pre-existing set of expectations. Learning and Innovation are both in there for a reason. They both have purpose. Because while I don’t personally think titles make much of a difference, they do carry a message. The words in Titles can remind us of what’s important and where our focus should be.

    Learning because as a school district we should be about Learning. Student Learning. Teacher Learning. Principal Learning. Staff Learning. Parent and Community Learning. School should represent a hub of life long learning in practice.

    Innovation because thanks to the Internet, the world we live in is smaller than it’s ever been and as a consequence, it’s changing must faster than it ever has. Innovation because in our part of the world (Silicon Valley), Innovation is in our community’s DNA. Innovation because it promotes outside the box thinking, reflection and analysis of process and goals and practice. Innovation because learning isn’t about standing still, it’s about moving.

    So I’ve got a new title and more responsibility, but really, it’s just put a label to what I’ve been all about for a while now, Learning and Innovation.

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